So you think you’re an anime master, huh? You think you know your moes from your bishounens, your Japanese videogame titles from your manga exclusives? Well, brave challenger, I dare you to test your knowledge against the ultimate otaku test: Outbreak Company!
Outbreak Company was originally a light novel series written by Ichirō Sakaki. A manga adaption was published by Kodansha in 2012, with an anime series soon following in 2013. MVM Entertainment is now bringing the anime to English-speaking fans with a release date set for October 12th, 2015. Outbreak Company is anime created for the lolita-obsessed, fujoshi-fanatics and hard-core visual novel fans. No matter what kind of fan you are, Outbreak Company has something for you. So grab your Pokémon cards, cuddle up to your anime plushies and surround yourself with figmas, because this outbreak of Japanese culture is coming for you!
Our protagonist is a young man named Shin’ichi Kanō. Described as both an otaku and a shut-in, Shin’ichi is one day visited by the Japanese government and offered a job. His vast otaku knowledge is needed in a recently discovered faraway world named Eldant. The Japanese government need Shin’ichi to manage a company that will spread anime, manga and videogames all over the Eldant Empire. It is the Japanese government’s hope that, through this introduction of Japanese culture, Japan will be able to create solid relations with a new, unexplored market.
Outbreak Company is first and foremost a comedy, a parody of every anime to date. Its purpose is to celebrate otaku culture, and it does this by squeezing in every possible reference to popular anime, manga and videogames that it can. The series does this rather blatantly, changing the names ever so slightly to not outright throw themselves into the firing line of copyright infringement.
The creator’s game of anime roulette is all done in good humour, however. After all, it would be rather difficult to fully explain a fandom to someone without first saying what the fandom is called. Outbreak Company was made in homage to the anime we all watch today, and of course any serious fan would want to reference their sources. What anime fan wouldn’t feel that jump of delight when recognising a quote from Attack on Titan, or smile happily when seeing a familiar chocobo creature from Final Fantasy walk across their screen? The series does its best to show support and respect to the titles it clearly loves so much.
Although that’s not to say that they don’t see the risks they brought upon themselves… They say laughter is the best medicine, right?
A one-way cultural exchange can bring about some highly conflicting messages and confusing ideals for the country on the receiving end, however. It turns out that Eldant is built on a class system, with humans being the highest class and elves, dwarfs, reptilians, werewolves and mixed ethnicities being the lower classes. The explanation surrounding Eldant’s sociology is sadly rather brief, but we do learn that racism is a common condition of Eldant’s class system. What I found slightly disappointing was Shin’ichi naïve response to this, as he basically claims that otaku culture will teach Eldant the importance of equality. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of anime and manga, but I can’t say I believe such subjects are the epitome of equality. There are examples of racism in anime and manga, and to ignore that fact is a rather shallow view for Outbreak Company to take.
Likewise, what moral objections are brought up by Japan’s presence in Eldant, are dealt with briefly and swiftly. A rebel group who refers to Shin’ichi as an ‘invader’ at the end of a single episode is easily defeated and never heard of again. Their presence does manage to leave an impression on Shin’ichi, thankfully, although again the subject is not clearly discussed until the final episode. Even then however, the solution Shin’ichi comes up with is much too simple, with his answer in more regards to Eldant’s economy rather than its equal rights policy. Even the dangers of what an otaku can signify and develop into is treated lightly, with the psychological problems attached to becoming a shut-in shown to be a troubling, but nonetheless minor, problem. Then again, Outbreak Company is a comedy, and at only twelve episodes, it’s a rather short one at that. To go into such issues in more detail could arguably be too much for the series.
Shin’ichi Kanō became a shut-in after getting rejected by his high school crush. While searching the web one day, he comes across an advertisement seeking to hire an otaku. Shin’ichi has loved anime and manga since childhood, and easily aces the online test for the job. He’s then kidnapped by the Japanese government and thrown into a fantasy world full of magic! It’s Shin’ichi’s job to spread otaku culture in this world called Eldant, and you better believe he’s serious about his job! He’s rather shy due to his poor social skills, but he only ever has good intentions at heart. His eccentric personality makes him very popular among the female residents of Eldant.
Myucel Foaran is half human and half elf. Her mixed ethnicity has meant she has faced many hardships and ridicule from Eldant society. She dreams of one day living in a world that accepts people for who they are, and not by the shape of their ears or the number of scales on their body. She works as a maid and immediately forms a strong bond with her ‘master’, Shin’ichi. She’s timid, polite and hardworking. She’s also a quick learner and an excellent cook.
Petralka Anne Eldant III is the ruler of the Eldant Empire and a tsundere in training. Due to her small frame and child-like appearance, Petralka is described as a lolita. She has a fiery temper and is used to getting her way. She doesn’t question Eldant’s class system until Shin’ichi voices his disproval of her behaviour towards Myucel. Myucel later saves Petralka from an assassination attempt, and the two become close friends. Petralka constantly seeks attention from Shin’ichi, and grows very disheartened when she is unable to see him. She works hard to serve Eldant, and sometimes struggles under the pressure of being a ruler.
Minori Koganuma also works for the Japanese government and is a dedicated fujoshi. She loves BL (who doesn’t?) and likes to imagine Shin’ichi and Garius as a couple. Shin’ichi is immediately attracted to her due to her large chest, and so Minori usually has to remind Shin’ichi where her face is.
Elbia Hanaiman is a werewolf from the neighbouring Bahailm Kingdom. Initially suspected to be a spy, Shin’ichi has to work hard to stop Petralka from executing her. Shin’ichi is overwhelmed with joy at having a busty female friend with ears and a tail, and is often seen stroking and hugging Elbia’s furry appendages. This wolf-girl is a talented artist and full of energy. Her mood changes dramatically when under the influence of the full moon.
Garius En Cordbal is Petralka’s cousin and knight. He is a rather serious character and is very loyal to Petralka. He was second in line to the throne, which caused his and Petralka’s parents to brutally fight until both couples ended up assassinating each other. Garius also has a small crush on Shin’ichi.
Outbreak Company’s art style features warm colours and impressive landscapes. It isn’t a style that particularly stands out from other animes, but it is drawn attractively. Arguably the most beautiful scenes come from the Outbreak Company’s ending theme, which showcases gorgeous architecture, some stunning use of light, and some very striking backdrops.
One thing I would like to mention about Outbreak Company is that it’s largely a harem anime. The consequence of this is that there is lots of fan service. This means the anime features numerous breast close-ups, half naked women and characters in suggestive poses. I must admit, harem anime and multiple pictures of female flesh isn’t really to my taste, but I did find some small solace in Outbreak Company’s minor attempts at appeasing the feminine eye too. Garius looks pretty nice in an apron, don’t you think?
The opening theme, Univer Page by Suzuko Mimori, and the closing theme, Watashi no Hōsekibako by Mai Fuchigami, are both very catchy songs that fit well with the anime’s comedic setting. The DVDs contain both an English dubbed version and an English subbed version with Japanese voiceovers. The English voice acting is adequate, however I personally preferred to watch the Japanese original with English text. It’s completely down to personal preference.
I would like to point out that even the Japanese voice actors are targets for otaku referencing! Shin’ichi’s voice actor, Natsuki Hanae, was cast in another anime called The Severing Crime Edge. The anime was about a boy named Kiri who was obsessed with cutting people’s hair and who always carried a pair of scissors passed down to him by a murderous ancestor! Outbreak Company thus has a scene with Shin’ichi running with a pair of scissors whilst relaying one of Kiri’s well-known quotes! The voice actor for Garius, Shinichiro Miki, receives the same treatment. Previously cast in an anime called Straight Jacket, Garius is also used to repeat a memorable quote from the anime!
Outbreak Company is a pleasant anime that celebrates anime, manga and Japanese videogames. Its glorification of otaku culture is taken to the extreme at times, but if you like the harem genre, parodies, and just anime in general, you’re sure to find something to like in this comical anime.
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